Robin North - Immense Founder's Blogs

July 6, 2018
TaaS

With TaaS Technology Conference just around the corner and our very own CEO Robin North speaking at the event, here is a chance for you to find out more about him.

Tell us a bit about Immense and what you do here?

Immense is a software company on a mission to change how we make decisions about transport and mobility systems. We are trying to make the best capabilities in data and simulation available to more people in a user-friendly way. My role is probably 'Optimist in Chief'. Although I also get accused of being Chief Entropy Officer...

What were your passions growing up, what did you think you would be when you were older?

As a kid, motorsport was my greatest passion. I remember drawing pictures of Formula One cars and driver's helmets and colouring them in all different colours.

What was it like setting up the business?

In one word - terrifying.

There was a real 'leap of faith' day, when you're saying right, I am in a job I really enjoy with a stable income... and I'm about to sign this piece of paper which resigns from that and taking it on trust that I'm going to be able to sign this other piece of paper which means I've got a job again for a company that doesn't have any employees yet. We were all looking around the room and looking each other in the eye - an 'are we going to make this fly then?' moment.

What was it like being featured in Forbes so soon after setting up the business?

Hilarious! There was an article in Forbes and MIT and we literally only had an R&D grant and prototype simulations that worked... so quite a long way from a fully-fledged product and company. Off the back of that we went into building ourselves up and getting the company running. So, what was it like? Surreal in a word!

How did you overcome your doubts and fear of failure as you set up the business?

Order more pizza!

Actually, order more pizza is sort of true... when we started, we were always finding evenings and time outside of work to go and make something work or make it better, which would involve lots of pizzas. And we still do that now - make time to sit down and figure it out. Not as much as we'd like to but we still do, and that's part of who we are.

What's been your biggest success to date?

Well... we're still here! I think the biggest success is that we're not just here - we're here existing with a set of technologies, capabilities, proto-products, clients, reputation and doing well!

What personal habits and attributes do you think helped you to be a success?

A sense of humour helps a lot. Not being prepared to settle for a rubbish answer. And always taking the positive approach.

What advice would you give to other start-up companies?

I'll let them know once we've made it through!

What has been the best bit of business advice you have been given?

Bad news needs to travel fast. If something is starting to go wrong, you need to deal with it quickly.
Oh... and never run out of cash.

How do you set yourself apart from other businesses in the industry?

By being cheerfully optimistic, cheerfully aggressive and taking on difficult problems. We relish tackling difficult stuff.

What does a normal work day look like for you?

Zooming from the real micro details of our technology, its applications and a particular problem, out to the high-level, global market trends in our sector and how to approach potential investors and partners, to HR and a bit of everything in between. It involves quite a lot of email!

It doesn't have enough space in it to do all the things you need to do!

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the industry at present?

All the things that we're fixing for them...!

The biggest challenge is the disconnect between transport infrastructure providers (be that public or private sector) and the mobility service providers. Most of the time they're different worlds who don't really talk to each other as much as they can or as much as they should. This then impacts the consumer - the travelling public - and the transportation service they experience.

Assuming you've got food and water supplied, if you could take three things to live happily on a desert island what would they be?

A pencil and paper, and a satellite phone. I can then phone a friend and write stuff down and figure it out. Also, with a satellite phone you could get someone to play the radio down the phone. And probably a machete - I'm quite a practical person.

Or you could ask someone to rescue you?

Oh yes, please could someone send me a helicopter